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Thu Oct 15, 2020, 10:49 PM

Missed it by *that* much

Two large pieces of space junk in LEO missed each other tonight by about 25 meters. Over 6100 lbs of junk heading at each other at almost 33000 mph.

Background:

https://www.space.com/possible-space-junk-collision-leolabs-oct-15-2020

... a smashup would likely result in a "significant (10 to 20 percent) increase in the LEO debris environment,


Update after the near-collision:



6 replies, 940 views

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Arrow 6 replies Author Time Post
Reply Missed it by *that* much (Original post)
CloudWatcher Oct 2020 OP
underpants Oct 2020 #1
silverweb Oct 2020 #2
CloudWatcher Oct 2020 #3
silverweb Oct 2020 #4
krispos42 Oct 2020 #5
silverweb Oct 2020 #6

Response to CloudWatcher (Original post)

Thu Oct 15, 2020, 10:54 PM

1. Well Chief...

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Response to CloudWatcher (Original post)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 12:03 AM

2. So shouldn't we do something about this?

Space junk is extremely dangerous and only getting worse. Aren't there lasers that would vaporize some of it? Why not outfit the Space Station with a couple and let the crew have target practice with space junk, and at least make a dent in it that way? Maybe some satellites could be outfitted with lasers and remote capabilities so that they could vaporize space junk, too. It's better than what we're doing now, which is nothing....


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Response to silverweb (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 01:57 AM

3. Absolutely!

Sadly vaporizing the junk with lasers isn't really a viable solution, but in the meantime we are playing a stupid game of Russian Roulette with the ISS and the lives of all the astronauts in LEO.

If it were up to me, we'd be making a priority of cleaning up the junk. In the meantime, we're pretending that sending people to Mars is anything other than a NASA contractors' fantasy.

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Response to CloudWatcher (Reply #3)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 02:06 AM

4. Absolutely agreed.

If not with vaporizing lasers, though, how? I mean, it would be a space junk version of whack-a-mole, probably ongoing forever, but that's the least of our worries. There's a lot of space junk in a lot of territory to clean up....

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Response to silverweb (Reply #4)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 09:11 AM

5. The space junk should eventually be burned up in Earth's orbit

Earth's atmosphere doesn't have a hard boundary with space, it just sort of fades into almost-nothingness as you rise from the ground to space.

So all the little bits of stuff are, gradually, being de-orbited by tiny amounts of drag operating over months or years.

The problem, I guess, is that we keep renewing the inventory of junk each time we launch a rocket.

This is a problem that I really can't think of a good answer to. The velocities can be incredibly high, so you can't just put out a big net and catch things. A lot of components are made of stuff other than steel, so they are unaffected by magnetism. You've got billions of cubic yards to worry about and no good way to police it.

I mean, I guess I could see them having some sort of automatic hunter-killer satellite in orbit with a laser on it and a high-definition radar system, and it would automatically zap anything that was smaller than, say, a dishwasher. So maybe it could vaporize the smaller bits.

And maybe it could be set to fire at things only if doing so would slow its orbital velocity, making it burn up in the atmosphere sooner. But I sense the idea would be expensive and ineffective. I know the Air Force and Navy are working on weapons-grade lasers but I have no idea if they have one that could be up in space for years at a time without maintenance.

And okay, maybe it doesn't need to be a laser that can vaporize something. Maybe just a laser that can just be shined on debris so the photon impacts will slow it down so it de-orbits faster. But light pressure is a very weak force, so I doubt that would work.

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Response to krispos42 (Reply #5)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 11:36 AM

6. We sure are a messy species.


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